George Padmore, born in Trinidad, was a leading Pan-Africanist, journalist, and author.
It was from a small flat in Somers Town that George Padmore helped change the world.
The writer and activist, who lived in Cranleigh Street, was instrumental in helping the formation of Ghana – formerly the Gold Coast – as the first post-colonial, self-governed African state. His role in highlighting the evils of colonialism was one of his many achievements.
“My grandfather, Charlie Lahr, was a German-born Jewish anarchist who moved to England in 1906.
“He ran a bookshop in Camden Town and it became the haunt of Jomo Kenyatta, CLR James – and George Padmore.
“CLR James, who had been at the same school as Padmore in Trinidad, learned his politics at my grandfather’s bookshop. It was a place of debate and discussion. My grandfather would give books away – he was more interested in spreading knowledge than making a living.
“George would come to his house for Sunday lunch.” Esther Leslie.
Padmore lived in the block – built as industrial dwellings – from 1941 to 1957, with his partner Dorothy Pizer. It became a key meeting place for left wingers, pan-Africanists, anti-colonial movements. Letters from the likes of Richard Wright and WEB DuBois would drop through its letterbox.
When Kwame Nkrumah came to London in 1945 to study law, Padmore met him at the station and gave him a place to stay. It was the beginning of a long friendship. Nkrumah returned to Ghana as the country’s first president in 1956 and asked Padmore to join him.
Padmore’s memory is marked by a Blue Plaque on his Somers Town flat – and his legacy lives on wherever there lingers the injustice of empire.
“A journalist, radical activist, and theoretician, George Padmore did more than perhaps any other single individual to shape the theory and discourse of Pan-African anti-imperialism in the first half of the twentieth century.
Born Malcolm Nurse in Trinidad in 1901, Padmore moved to the United States in 1925 to study at Fisk and Howard Universities. In 1928 he dropped out of Howard’s law school and joined the American Communist Party. Quickly rising in Party ranks as an expert on race and imperialism, Padmore moved to Moscow, USSR in 1929 to head the Comintern’s International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers and to edit the Negro Worker. In 1931 he published the influential pamphlet, The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers. In 1933 the Comintern suspended publication of the Negro Worker and disbanded the Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers, prompting Padmore to split acrimoniously with the Party. In subsequent years Padmore would become a fervent anti-Communist, denouncing the Comintern’s alleged manipulation of black freedom struggles in his 1956 book Pan-Africanism or Communism? However, throughout his life, he continued to unite with activists and trade unionists on the radical left around the issue of anti-colonialism.
Padmore settled in London, UK in 1936. There he helped foster a radical milieu of Pan-Africanist intellectuals that included Padmore’s childhood friend, the Trotskyist theorist C.L.R. James. In 1936 Padmore published How Britain Rules Africa, followed a year later by Africa and World Peace. Along with I.T.A. Wallace-Johnson, Padmore and James founded the International African Service Bureau in 1937. Padmore guided the bureau through the late 1930s and early 1940s until in merged into the Pan-African Federation in 1944. He was a principal organizer of the Manchester Pan-African Congress in 1945, which helped lay the foundation for postwar African colonial liberation movements. Throughout this period Padmore’s articles and essays were printed regularly in the Chicago Defender, the Pittsburgh Courier, and The Crisis, as well as in newspapers throughout Britain, West Africa, and the Caribbean. Padmore’s international journalism and other writings linked African American struggles with liberation movements in Africa and with African Diaspora peoples around the world and thus had a profound effect on the contours of black political thought.
George Padmore spent his final years in newly independent Ghana as an advisor and mentor to Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah. He died in London in 1959.
Citation: Padmore, George. 1941. “Whither the West Indies” Labor Action, 5(29).
This is an interview with Mr. Raz Finni of Moss Side in Manchester, conducted by Robin Grinter and Anna Ward on 18 July 1995. Mr. Finni has been a businessman and shopkeeper in Manchester for many years and a resident in Manchester since the end of WWII. Padmore was an important figure in helping to organise the Manchester Pan-African Congress in 1945.
Raz Finni recalls the time he met Padmore.